Certain characteristics are present in people with eating and food issues. One trait is that of impulsivity. Although impulsivity is multidimensional, one component of this behavior, negative urgency (NU), was of interest to Sarah Fischer of the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia. Fischer chose to focus on NU in a recent study designed to assess eating behaviors in college women. NU is believed to be a primary factor that contributes to the onset and maintenance of risky and addictive behaviors, such as substance use and eating issues. Additionally NU has been shown to be a maladaptive coping strategy for some people and occurs when people engage in immediate coping patterns that are rewarded with negative outcomes. Women entering college are under an immense amount of pressure and those with pre-existing maladaptive coping strategies are especially vulnerable to behaviors that can result in negative outcomes such as such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa (NV). Therefore, Fischer selected 355 female students for her study and evaluated them at the beginning and end of their first semester in college.
Fischer assessed the women’s eating patterns and found that those with high levels of NU at Time 1 were more likely to engage in binge eating at Time 2 than those with little or no NU. Fischer also discovered that NU and expectations of thinness predicted purging behaviors at Time 2. She also noticed that the women with higher rates of NU and thinness-prone attitudes engaged in more frequent purging behaviors than those with moderate expectations of thinness or low levels of NU. Fischer believes that her study is among the first to demonstrate such a robust link between NU and fluctuating patterns of bulimic behaviors. The results of this study suggest that expectation of thinness could be a focus of future intervention and prevention treatment efforts. Fischer added, “In sum, baseline NU and eating expectancies were directly associated with future binge eating, and NU moderated the effects of thinness/restricting expectancies on increases in levels of purging.”
Fischer, S., Peterson, C. M., McCarthy, D. (2012). A prospective test of the influence of negative urgency and expectancies on binge eating and purging. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029323
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